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Warriors All-Stars

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: Aug. 29, 2017


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PS4 Review - 'Warriors All-Stars'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 28, 2017 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Warriors All-Stars is the latest one-versus-thousand action title bringing together many of Koei Tecmo Games’ most beloved characters for an all-new Warriors style experience.

Buy Warriors All-Stars

Koei Tecmo already has a crossover title with the Warriors Orochi series. For fans of both Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors, the crossover was a big deal since they finally saw fan favorite characters interact. The company itself has enough characters and franchises that are ripe for the proven Musou formula, and what better way to put them all together than in one big crossover title, Warriors All-Stars?

The story is somewhat expected for a big crossover title like this. A faraway world is on the brink of dying due to a spring that has stopped providing its life-giving water. The widowed queen, who's also a priestess of the world, foretold that only heroes from other worlds would be able to save them from doom. The heroes were summoned, but the spell wasn't strong enough to have them gather in one place, and they were scattered all over the kingdom. The queen's two children and her nephew went their separate ways to gather these heroes to save the world — while attempting to win the throne for themselves.

The generic story is an excuse for the characters of the various franchises to be in the same world at the same time, and it doesn't get better as you progress. The three characters fall into the expected anime tropes and aren't interesting in their own right. Even if you're not familiar enough with the characters, their interactions in the cut scenes are often amusing enough to play through the game multiple times in order to see them all. The only drawback is that some of the more interesting dialogue pieces come in the middle of a fight, so you'll often be too busy to appreciate what's being said.

There are roughly 30 playable characters throughout the entire game, and while that roster count may seem small to Musou fans, the breadth of the game library more than makes up for that. Musou fans will appreciate the appearance of fan favorites like Lu Bu and Yukimura Sanada, but those familiar with the company's popular and obscure games will also see their favorites represented. Given the popularity of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive, it shouldn't be surprising to see Ryu Hayabusa, Kasumi and Marie Rose. Fans of the Atelier games will appreciate seeing Plachta and Sophie Neuenmuller, and characters from both Toukiden and Deception also make appearances. Even William from this year's big hit Nioh is present, but the more interesting characters are from obscure titles such as Rio from the pachinko game of the same name, Opoona from the very obscure Wii title, and Nobunyaga Oda from Samurai Cats, an old trading card game from the early days of the Android.

For the most part, the fighting mechanics follow the basics of the Musou formula rather closely. You have the basic and strong attacks, which can be chained together to create some good combos. Hit enough enemies to build your super meter, and you can unleash a super move to take out more enemies at a time or deal hefty damage to a boss or captain of the outpost. Leveling is also back, so you can increase your stats automatically and learn some new combos for your character. Mounts are not here, however, so you'll have to run to all of your battles instead of relying on a horse or similar creature.

Following that Musou formula also means that the game comes with those same criticisms that are so ingrained in the series that fans accept them as part of the charm. Enemies still use their time-honored tactic of crowding around you and waiting to be hit. The battlefields are more like labyrinths with their winding corridors and pathways, and while there's always one central objective, so many ancillary ones pop up during a battle that you'll likely run around the battlefield exploring every nook and cranny. Outposts litter the field, and while some have bonuses like refilling your health, they all require killing a set number of people before you have an opportunity to take over.

The crossover theme isn't limited to the characters. While the layout of some stages is the same as some of the levels in earlier titles, they take on the themes of the other games, whether it's a full-fledged casino or an interpretation of a medieval European town. The enemies also take on the themes, so while you may usually fight anthropomorphic canines, you'll also run into smiling slime creatures and feudal Japanese soldiers. The creature and environment themes often clash, so there's more crossover to be had at every turn.

One of the newer additions to the fighting mechanics is the Bravery system. Much like a MOBA, Bravery is a separate sort of level that's contained in each battlefield. It climbs at a much higher pace than your regular XP and is gained more swiftly once you accomplish various side tasks, such as killing a number of soldiers under five minutes. That Bravery system acts as a gateway for how far you can go in a battle, since enemies with higher Bravery aren't damaged much by your attacks. The mechanic is interesting on paper, but it feels like an artificial way of extending the game since players were never gated like this in the past.

Unlike the last time that Koei Tecmo shoehorned a few Dead or Alive cameos into Warriors Orochi 3, the inclusion of these characters means that they all have attacks of their own. Ayane and Honoka go in without weapons. Sophie summons large bombs and creatures from the sky and administers electric shocks. Laegrinna implements traps for her attacks, so her character is faithful to her Deception roots. Rio has the more oddball attacks, as she uses giant dice, poker chips, a roulette wheel and slot machines for attacks. The fighters feel very different this time around, giving players a reason to change characters to see those variations.

Though most of the elements will be familiar, there are a few new things thrown in for good measure. You now have the ability to take four additional characters into battle. They'll automatically follow you and attack on their own or become part of your combo chain. You can also summon them for special abilities, like health refills or to dispel curses placed on you. They can also be called upon to link up with you, so you can take control of all of them simultaneously for a limited time. One of the more interesting abilities in your arsenal is Musou Rush. Given to you at the beginning of each battle and earned once more for every 1,000 kills, Musou Rush puts you in a frenzied state where, for 20 seconds, an endless supply of enemies surround you and you're free to kill as many as you can. Your allies appear on-screen to cheer you on, and reaching certain milestones extends your time in this mode. Once the timer expires, you unleash a final screen-clearing attack and gain a ton of items.

Outside of combat, the game has seen some other changes. Much like the recent Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, the game has a central hub town, where you can talk to people for fun or see the crossover characters do things, like play with slot machines and arcades or play volleyball. Useful activities in the hub town include getting special missions in exchange for items that can be used to augment character cards. Those character cards, which are gained in battle, can power up characters with abilities like extra fire damage, resistance to certain curses, or blocking rear attacks. Cards can also be sold for cash or crafted into newer cards, so copies of the same character card don't go to waste. The town also features a sparring area where players can grind for XP without starting a full-blown mission. Finally, the affinity system means that you gain abilities when you have someone else in your party, as long as you keep partnering with them over time.

The mission structure, however, is completely new. Finish the first training mission, and you'll be introduced to a huge world map that functions similarly to a map in a RTS game. New areas are opened up once you complete a mission that's next to a darkened zone. From here, you can access the next story-based mission, but that are surrounded by several side missions, which include tasks like raiding bases, protecting bases and gaining new characters for your party. There are even missions that'll only appear for a short period of time, and you'll receive big bonuses for finishing them. The missions are enough to keep you busy and lengthen each character's game, so even though the roster may be smaller than usual, the overall game length for completionists is on par with those older titles.

Sadly, Warriors All-Stars is very sparse when it comes to modes. Story mode is the only actual game mode here with the rest of the game being taken up by galleries and encyclopedias for every character here. With things like co-op and free roam gone, the game can feel rather lacking for those well versed in past entries.

The audio is all over the place, but in a good way. The game maintains the series' use of Japanese-only audio, which makes for great voice work at the expense of being able to follow the story during battle sequences. The sound effects are solid, but the music is the real treat. Since this is a crossover title, you'll get some familiar songs from every represented series, but they come in two flavors: the original and a newer version that's done in the series' famous guitar rock style. It's a nice touch that fans will appreciate.

Graphically, Warriors All-Stars brings back memories of the series during the PS3 era. The environments are fine but don't display much flourish, even when the themes are different from what the series has seen before. The characters are a bright spot, as they retain the same appearance from their original games. Seeing Hajime Arima from Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time show up in complete cel-shaded form may contrast with the 3-D environments, but it looks better than having that character's appearance become mangled in full polygonal 3-D. The frame rate is a letdown, as we're back to a sub-30 fps after finally cracking a more consistent 60 fps. It's baffling since there isn't a massive increase in simultaneous fighters on-screen and the special effects have been pared back.

Your reaction to Warriors All-Stars will depend on how big of a Musou fan you are. If you're a hardcore fan of the series and have played through many of the main entries and a number of the side titles, then you may be fine with renting this one or getting it when it's cheaper. The crossover appeal and the new mechanics are very nice, but the lack of modes can make this feel incomplete. If you're a more casual fan or new to the series, this is much easier to recommend, as it's a good introduction to past games and prepares you for the changes in the upcoming ninth game in the main series.

Score: 7.5/10

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